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Adobe Photoshop CC 2017 Mac Pro vs PC Performance

Written on April 14, 2017 by Matt Bach


If you are thinking of moving from Mac to PC, you are likely doing so for one of three reasons:

  1. The more robust capabilities available on PC (higher RAM capacity, VR headset support, hardware upgrades, etc.)
  2. The lower cost of PC workstations
  3. The higher performance of a modern PC workstation

In this article we will be specifically looking at number 3 - examining how the top-end Mac Pro (late 2013) compares to two of our PC workstations. To be fair, the Mac Pro is not well optimized for Photoshop since Photoshop is primarily a single-threaded application (it only utilizes one or two CPU cores) and in fact even a lower cost Macbook Pro should be faster than the Mac Pro. However, there are a lot of people that utilize Photoshop as a secondary application in their workflow so we decided to take the time to see just how much faster a PC workstation actually is compared to the Mac Pro.

If you want to skip over our individual benchmark results and go straight to the conclusion, feel free to jump ahead!

Test Setup

To see how the current Mac Pro compares to a modern workstation, we will be testing with the following systems:

  Mac Pro
(Late 2013)
Puget Systems Workstation
Core i7 7700K
Puget Systems Workstation
Core i7 6950X
CPU Intel Xeon E5-2697 v2
(2.7-3.5GHz) 12 Core
Intel Core i7 7700K 4.2GHz
(4.5GHz Max Turbo) 4 Core
Intel Core i7 6950X 3.0GHz
(3.4-4GHz Turbo) 10 Core
RAM 4x DDR3-1866 16GB ECC
(64GB Total)
4xDDR4-2400 16GB
(64GB total)
4x DDR4-2400 16GB ECC Reg.
(64GB total)
GPU 2x AMD FirePro D700 6GB NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 8GB
Hard Drive 1TB PCIe-based Flash Storage Samsung 960 Pro 1TB M.2 PCI-E x4 NVMe SSD
OS MacOS Sierra Windows 10 Pro 64-bit
Software Photoshop CC 2017.0.1
System Cost $9,399 $3,860 $5,415

While we could simply compare the Mac Pro to our Core i7 7700K configuration which is optimized for Photoshop, we decided to also include one of our systems that utilizes the Core i7 6950X. This is not an ideal CPU for Photoshop since it does not have as high of single-threaded performance, but it is a terrific CPU for video editing. Since the Mac Pro is configured more towards video editing as well, we thought it would be fair to include in our comparison. Even with this high-end Core i7 6950X CPU, both of our PC workstations cost significantly less than the Mac Pro. In fact, you could purchase two of our Core i7 7700K workstations and still have more than $1,500 left over!

The images we used in our testing (and their source) are:

Photoshop Actions

360MP (21500x16718)
Scaled up from the Hardware Heaven Photoshop Benchmark V3 (no longer available)

Resized to 38MP (7000x5443) for Smart Blur

Merge to HDR

5x 18MP TIFF (5184x3456)

Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i

5x 80MP TIFF (7760x10328)

Camera: Phase One IQ180
Courtesy of Mark McGilvray Photography

Settings: Default


6x 18MP TIFF (5184x3456)
Merged to 98MP (26144x3759)

Camera: Canon EOS REBEL T3i

6x 80MP TIFF (7760x10328)
Merged to 177MP (18552x9552)

Camera: Phase One IQ180
Courtesy of Mark McGilvray Photography

Settings: Auto Layout. Blend, vignette removal, geometric distortion correction, and content aware fill enabled.

Photoshop Action Results

  Mac Pro
(Late 2013)
Puget Systems Workstation
Core i7 7700K
Puget Systems Workstation
Core i7 6950X
General Photoshop Actions      
Convert to CMYK 3.2 2.7 2.3
Convert to RGB 3.6 4.1 2.9
Rotate 38deg 5.8 3.6 4
Smart Sharpen 9.2 4.5 4.6
Field Blur 30.8 26 29.3
Iris Blur 32.8 29 30.5
Tilt-Shift 33 28.5 30.7
Lighting Effect 10.8 9.4 12.5
Motion Blur 8.2 5 6.1
Water Color 70.4 46.1 60.1
Pallette Knife 200.6 68.2 79.5
Stained Glass 164 141.5 139.8
Liquify 14.7 18.8 21.8
Reduce Noise 72.4 52.9 62.7
Camera Raw Filter 16.1 13.7 11.4
Generate Normal Map 15.4 10.3 14.8
Select Snapshot 0 0 0
Lens Correction 43 36.4 49.7
Adaptive Wide Angle 216.4 153.1 276.3
Resize to 109MB 10.3 6.9 9.3
Smart Blur 36.8 21.4 27.3
Save 1.17GB PSD Stopwatch 24.2 16 22.5
Open 1.17GB PSD Stopwatch 7.7 5.5 6.7
Photomerge - 6x 18MP Images 71.6 60.5 58.2
Photomerge - 6x 80MP Images 342.8 238.9 251.6
HDR Creation      
HDR Creation - 5x 18MP Images 50.6 25.6 33.1
HDR Creation - 5x 80MP Images 80.9 60.5 67.2

Normally we would spend quite a bit of time going through the results action by action, but the performance across each task is remarkably consistent so we are going to leave our analysis for the next section. The only thing we want to note is that there are technically two times when the Mac Pro was faster than our Core i7 7700K workstation: Convert to RGB and Liquify. On the other hand, there were even more times when the Core i7 7700K workstation was two or even three times faster than the Mac Pro: Smart Sharpen, Pallette Knife, and HDR creation of 18MP images.


Mac Pro vs PC workstation in Photoshop CC 2017 Benchmark
If we normalize the average of our results to the Mac Pro, you get a great idea of how it compares to either of our PC workstations. To make it short: a PC can be significantly faster than the Mac Pro at a much lower price. Depending on the task, we saw on average a 22-37% performance gain with the Core i7 6950X workstation and a 31-66% performance gain with the Core i7 7700K system.

Keep in mind that we are comparing a top-end Mac Pro (late 2013) which retails for about $9,399 to two of our workstations that cost $3,860 and $5,415. This isn't simply the raw parts costs of our workstations either, this includes all of our standard markup to cover pre-sales consultation (to ensure you are getting exactly the right hardware), our full production process (including assembly, OS/software installation, and our thorough burn-in and QC process), as well as our terrific post-sale support and repair service should you ever have a problem. Even with all of that, the two PC workstations we tested still came in at roughly 40-60% of the cost of the Mac Pro. Even if budget isn't a concern, this cost savings can give you significant financial leg room for things like upgrading monitors or increasing internal storage capacity.

As we stated in the introduction of the article, we do want to point out that the Mac Pro really isn't ideal for Photoshop. If you spend the majority of your time in Photoshop, one of the newer iMac or Macbook Pros is going to be faster and less expensive than the Mac Pro. Even then, Mac shouldn't be able to match PC but the difference would certainly be a lot less. The main reason we wanted to perform this testing is because of our series of articles comparing the Mac Pro to our PC workstations with a focus on video editing. We looked at Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Autopano, and felt that it would be useful to round out our testing with Photoshop since it is an almost universally used piece of software.

Photoshop Workstations

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Tags: Adobe, Photoshop, Mac Pro

Sure do appreciate these comparisons and straight talk to cut through the tech buzz BS. Nice to know how to optimize a system to a specific purpose. In my case I have to be jack of all trades.

Posted on 2017-05-06 19:24:36
Tom Herriman

Do you appreciate that they compared a 2013 Mac to two 2017 machines of their own design?

Posted on 2018-03-05 11:38:58

I actually am an Apple guy and (still) waiting for the 2018 Mac Pro and a new Apple monitor. If it doesn't live up to my expectations, hell will freeze over, and I may buy a PC Workstation from these guys instead. I HATED the 2013 Mac Pro. By any measure Apple screwed up big time on the dead end 2013 design and by the time they rectify it it will have been about 5 years between models. Not much excuse for that. Apple needs to make an attempt to stay current nearly EVERY year. It's why 2010 and 2012 Mac Pro cheese grater's are still viable because they were designed to be updated. Me no like machines that are pretty much sealed up. The iMac Pro's are very nice but again not much in the way of future modifications to be had.

BTW if the same comparison above were done again with an equivalent iMac Pro it would probably paint quite a different picture. Speed though is one thing - options and upgradeability are another. Every pro has their own unique list of requirements and one size does not always fit all. And some of us like some built-in capability and not a bunch of cables running hither and yon to peripherals.

Posted on 2018-03-05 16:32:33
Tom Herriman

I understand.
I am a Windows/PC guy, but have been using a MacBook Pro for travel. I am a hobby photographer and wanted a decent screen for processing while I'm away from home. While I love Windows, the laptops are heavy and awful for color accuracy.
That said, I can't stand this Mac. The OS design is not user friendly and rather dysfunctional. I'm glad that I bought one prior to the touch bar version! There is no option to expand the memory or processor and a larger internal SSD would cost as much as a new Windows Laptop. The limited ports are a real pain in the butt when it comes to finding and adapting peripherals. I can't imagine dealing with the Thunderbolt 3 crap. And I'm limited to slow WAN connections!? Speaking of peripherals, there aren't that many available and with the exception of a $1,000 SSD NONE of them can make use of the speed. And YES, I hate that I have 5 cords hanging out of my laptop all the time or need a docking station and more junk on my desk. Another reason I don't like my Mac. (I know you meant the opposite, but my PC is actually cleaner than my Mac.

I came to this page because I'm researching the move back to PC. I have built my own PC's since 1995 and am considering a custom order this time around.
As for travel, I'll just have to suffer and wait until I'm home to do my processing.

Good luck in your endeavors.

Posted on 2018-03-05 22:18:07

It's funny. I would flip around everything you just said. I'm primarily Mac but of course have used Windows which I consider has the clunkiest, least productive and poorly coded OS on top of problematic system issues and drivers. I suppose in some instances it's what you're used to but I have seen too many others, ex-Windows users, verify the same thing I noted. Still it's a PC/Mac world and whatever gets the job done for you is fine. At the end of the day it's just a tool. I just find I'm a heck of a lot more productive on a Mac - and I smile a lot more as a result.

I agree it was insane to be stuck with a Thunderbolt 2 port in a pro level machine. PCIe 3 is adaptable for pro use in much better ways, and soon PCIe4. No I was talking about the cable madness coming from a 2013 Mac Pro wasn't very attractive. I also still use current and some legacy ports. I have built up older Mac Pro's and friends old Windows machines precisely because they did have PCI3 2 or 3 slots. My workstation heart aligns with the PC Workstation even if my OS preference is OS X. I'm heartened though by increased availability of certain pro apps on Linux. If enough do make that option available I might switch. At least for certain tasks.

I love this site giving so many options to users, as many PC building sites do. Apple fails to understand the pro mindset precisely wanting and needing these kinds of options. We shall see what they've learned with the 2018 Mac Pro.

Same with you in you pursuits. Enjoy your chosen tech! The good news is we have it and can make our own choices.

Posted on 2018-03-05 23:20:56
Dennis W

I process very large files created by a Canon 5Dsr. I batch these files in groups of 20 to 30. I've been told that Adobe camera RAW uses multiple processors and that I'd be better off getting a CPU that has 8 or 10 cores. Have you done any batch processing tests using Adobe camera RAW to see which set up provides the best performance.

Posted on 2017-06-13 06:09:40
Tom Herriman

You stacked a comparison of your 2017 models against a 2013 Mac?

You guys have to be kidding!

Posted on 2018-03-05 11:43:49

Sure, a Mac Pro that may not have been significantly updated since 2013... but which was still being sold in 2017 as the top-end system from Apple. Indeed, it is still being sold now, in 2018, though I think they may have reduced the price a bit. If Apple is still selling it as their flagship workstation, the comparison is still fair.

Posted on 2018-03-05 15:50:20
Tom Herriman

I should not have assumed that Apple would have updated between 2013 and 2017.
Fair enough.

Posted on 2018-03-05 21:56:49

Fair comparison would have been iMac 5K and and iMac Pro models released between time. Heck, a top end MBP with fast turbo mode would out perform the workstation chosen. So no it's not a fair comparison.

William and Matt, I love your testing but in this case it would have been better to choose the 6 core single processor very fast Mac Pro rather than the slower dual Xeon.

i.e. 3.5 GHz 6 Core Xeon E5-1650v2 instead of 2.7 GHz 12 Core Xeon E5-2697v2

In particular, the price to performance ration would have been much better.

An alternative approach to content creation on Apple computers

I'm very happily running upgraded Silver Towers (6 core 3.46 GHz X5690 and 12 core 3.33 GHz X5680). From your testing, I see I didn't need the dual Xeon 12 core at all. It's actually slower at most tasks due to data getting slowed down navigating two processors. It does take more memory. Price per performance on these old Silver Towers is great for those who do want to stay with Mac OS. You can also put in whatever PCI cards and whatever graphic cards you want (I've had a GTX980ti running and currently run an RX580 on my creative station) - while avoiding the whole Thunderbolt shakedown. These silver towers still look great. Unlike newer Apple computers (whether desktop, all-in-one or laptop) the silver towers are completely repairable by the end user. Replacement parts are easily available on eBay at affordable prices.

You are right though - Apple has lost the plot in terms of pro machines after 2010 when they started working on the trash can. The current OS is crippled for pros (all kinds of gaping security and file management issues, not to even mention the disappearance of the very effective built-in Apple Raid).

As pro-unfriendly as Apple has been in the last seven years, switching OS is very difficult for those who've never liked Microsoft's antitrust ways or Microsoft's historic collaboration with CIA and NSA (endless backdoors, Windows 10 is basically spyware). There's also the question of skills. I can admin Macs in my sleep and have a rich library of applications and utilities coded by talented third party developers, like Acorn for bitmap image editing and Iridient Digital for RAW development. The third party (non-Apple, non-Adobe, non-Microsoft) applications are what keep me on Apple computers, despite the absence of top-end performance.

Content creation is more than just raw performance benchmarks.

Posted on 2018-06-04 22:41:40